Meet the Author: J.R. O’Bryant
I hope the week is treating you well. It’s almost over, you can do this!
Today I’m stopping by with another author interview. This time around it’s J.R. O’Bryant, fantasy author.
I met J.R. O’Bryant through Kelly Blanchard, who has a great supportive Facebook group of authors. I couldn’t resist getting to know another indie author like myself. Are you ready for the interview? Here we go!
J.R. O’Bryant is the author of the Krystianna Aramis Vampire Novels. She was born and raised in California and then moved to the very high and remote altitudes of the Rockies in Colorado for the better part of a decade. She now resides in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio with the love of her life and their ever growing and evolving Demon Squishy Spawn. She is also the human slave to several feline overlords and a red tail boa.
J.R. has always had a love of the written word and is never far from a few books that are in the process of being read. She started creating her own stories in high school out of a need to escape the world she felt stuck in. She wouldn’t even dream of publishing a book in her own name until she was into her late twenties. But when the words started happening nothing could slow her down for long. Her passion has always been the written words and the telling of great tales so it only made sense for her to chase after those same passions for herself. She now writes horror, paranormal fiction, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and some more adult fiction on the sidelines.
When she is not arguing with her creations and/or her muse and putting words to the page, she enjoys listening to all genres of music (as long as it has a good rhythm and can be danced to). She enjoys many forms of martial arts, sword play, weapons practice, knife and bladed weapons throwing, and sparring with her partner, brother, and Spawn. She enjoys gaming on all platforms including console, PC, and table top. And of course, she reads as much and as often as she can.
Hi J.R. , thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
You unearth a time machine in the ruins of an ancient civilization unknown to man. What era do you visit first and why?
J.R. : This is actually kind of funny because I’ve had this discussion with people in my life a few times. Knowing how timelines work and the whole butterfly effect aspect I would want to be very careful of where I went and who or what I interacted with. I think I would start in and around the Fertile Crescent at the beginning of the greater ancient civilizations so that I could see how human kind developed from the start. I would want to study the languages in their original forms and patterns. I would want to study farming and trade practices. Attend services and lectures at temples and learn where the ancient mythologies originated from. Dead/Archaic languages and mythology are major hobbies of mine so having the ability to study the very source of all of it would thrill me to no end. The sheer amount of knowledge that I could gain from my travels would keep me on my toes for the rest of my days.
Jonny: Great answer, and your adventure sounds interesting as well as educational. The butterfly effect escaped me, so I’m glad you brought that up. Afraid of messing up the timeline of humanity, I’d probably stick within the last century or so. I’d probably stick with the 60’s this time around. I’d love to live the hippie lifestyle for a while. It sounds like it was so relaxing and carefree. *sighs* If only.
J.R. and the Writing Process
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
J.R.: I have an all season room with three of the walls being sliding glass doors and windows. I have what I call my writing chair, which is a massive high back monstrosity but is utterly comfortable. If I am the only one out on the patio, then I have all sorts of music blasting as loud as I can legally have it. I listen to all sorts of music when I write. Each character has their own internal soundtrack and then I have my personal choices for listening as well. So on any given day I may jump from Gregorian Chant to Five Finger Death Punch to Sisters of Mercy to Blutengel to Shadowfax and Spencer Brewer. To say my writing ritual is eclectic would be putting it mildly. The only thing that changes when I have to share space is that I put in noise cancelling headphones and ignore the outside world. When I am in my writing space the rest of the world fades to static around me and the words I am writing take on a life of their own.
Jonny: Oh man, I’m so jealous of your all season room! That sounds like heaven. I’m also a huge fan of playing music while writing, though I stick to ambient nowadays. I just write in my bedroom where my desktop is, but I’m saving for a house and am hoping one day in the future I can have a whole room dedicated to writing and reading. Fingers crossed!
Why do you write?
J.R.: It’s more a matter of how could I not. I have always believed that one’s imagination is their greatest asset. Inside our minds we can create entire worlds and universes to explore and wouldn’t it better if we could share those secret places for others to explore as well? There is such magic in the written word. Take a book, for example, you sit down, you crack the cover, and you step into a whole new world of someone else’s creation. Maybe you’ve visited this world before and it’s become as familiar as your own or maybe this time you’ll step into a new universe you’ve yet to indulge your need for exploration in. I want to share my worlds, my universes, my stories and tales with the world. It was William Blake who started a poem with, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand; And Heaven in a Wild Flower; Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand; And Eternity in an Hour…” I can’t tell you want he intended with those famous words, but to me, that’s what it’s like when I read a book. And I want to share that experience with each new reader. I want them feel the exhilaration of being whisked away into a new time and place for the length of that book. I want them to literally feel like they hold the infinite possibilities of that new world in their hands.
Jonny: I couldn’t agree with you more on this. Imagination and creativity is always underrated in my opinion. The mind is a powerful thing, and there’s no greater feeling than sharing your stories with others and having them love every minute of it. For a lot of people writing is an escape to a different universe, and I think a lot of readers want to be whisked away too.
If you could give advice to new writers, what would you say?
J.R.: Write. Every single day. Write. Put words on the page. Don’t look back or let anyone else hold you back. If you have the passion to write, do it. Sit down with pen in hand or keyboard at your fingertips and write. You may be someone’s favorite author if you get your story out there. Someone out there is waiting for your story, for your adventure, and they don’t even know it yet. One of the hardest things I had to learn about writing was to be non-judgmental of my own work. To not write and rewrite the same scene ten, fifteen, twenty times over and over because I would get so frustrated with that one scene that I would let the story being told disappear and never get told. It’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are just lessons that we haven’t learned yet. Don’t take edits to your manuscript as wounds to your soul, editors aren’t there to tell you what you did right, they are there to point out what you did wrong so you can learn and move forward. Don’t judge yourself by other people’s successes, they have their journey and you have yours. And last but not least, chase your passions and reach for the stars, you may only reach the moon, but darling you’ve made it that far and your journey isn’t over yet.
Jonny: Lots of great advice here! One I advocate frequently is to write every day. Actions speak louder than words, and if someone is serious about writing, then they need to commit the time to it and develop their craft. Sure, you can take days off here and there. I never write on Christmas, but the goal is to keep doing it so your skills don’t fade.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
J.R.: One of the hardest challenges about writing is not judging or critiquing my own work. Not going back over every chapter and reworking it until it feels spotless. Not aiming for flawless execution and presentation. And, allowing myself to simply sit down and get the words on the page for the first time before going back and doing any edits. The only thing harder than not being my own worst critic and fighting imposter syndrome is handing over the final polished copy for edits. Knowingly handing over my beloved manuscript to an editor knowing that they are intentionally looking for flaws, is like a piece of my soul and handing it over to be eviscerated with tiny red marks that feel like the death of a thousand cuts. That part never gets easier. I think that maybe the last hard thing to do is hit that “Publish” button, because then my work is out there for anyone and everyone and I have to let it go and go on to the next story.
Jonny: Yeah, those are some tough challenges for sure. I have a hard time handing my work over for alpha and beta reads and being okay with it. Like, is my work really good enough? Will they hate it? It’s always a bit nerve-wracking.
I do polish my work after my first draft a couple times, but no more than that as long as it all makes rational sense. Overly polishing is a time suck, and your editors can let you know what isn’t working. No need to stress yourself out needlessly.
What do you think makes a good story?
J.R.: I think a good story needs strong characters who evolve and change and grow as the story continues. A good story needs a vibrant world that is brought to life by the creatures and characters in it. A good story needs to draw you in and hold your mind and attention hostage so that you never want to leave. Above all a good story needs to give the reader or listener the feeling that it will never truly be over even after they close the final page, that somewhere in an alternate universe that story, that world, and those characters continue on and go on to live more tales and adventures to be sought out by another adventurer someday.
Jonny: Oh definitely, all of these points! There’s gotta be some progression. It doesn’t have to be a ton, but there’s gotta be something. And a first chapter simply has to get my attention or I may not continue on. A boring first page is a death sentence for a book if you ask me.
How do you select the names of your characters?
J.R.: I love naming schemes and names that have meaning behind them. I have always believed that names have power to them and knowing the true name of a thing gives you some power over said thing. So, I try to give my characters names that stand out and that also describe them in some way. I use a name generator that gives me the meaning of the name and its history as well. So I look for names from specific regions to give my characters a more solid background. I look for names that have meanings with certain characteristics so that the character with that name embodies those aspects. I am obsessed with the entomology of words and names, it’s almost become a whole separate hobby of mine. I like knowing that I am creating characters with hidden aspects that may or may not come out in my writing of them.
Jonny: Oh wow, very interesting! I’m kind of a mixed bag with names. Sometimes they just come to me and I won’t budge on changing them. Other times I have to dig and dig until I find something that I think fits the characters.
Fun Facts About J.R.
Could you tell us a couple fun facts about you?
J.R. : I try really hard not to write myself or anyone I know into my books. I do however use my own life experiences in a lot of my writing. I’m poly, pansexual, pagan, and very open about my lifestyle. My main characters also have non-mundane non-vanilla lifestyles and they are open about it as well. I collect sharp pointy objects and know how to use all of them and I am always on the lookout for new ones or ones that are super unique. I always have the perfect song for every occasion and every person. I have been told by my partner(s) that I am extremely eloquent and verbose and always have a way with words that blows their minds (They suggest that it’s my love of the written word that makes it so I can talk and write in ways that most people simply can’t or don’t).
Jonny: It’s very nice to get to know more about you. Everybody is incredibly unique, especially us authors! I’ve had my pagan days earlier in life, but now I mainly enjoy just reading, writing, playing video games, and being a big ole nerd. I also share a love of the sharp pointy objects, but don’t really have the space to justify buying some and showcasing them, which I really want to do at some point.
If you had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
J.R. : One type of food? Wow. Ummmm… Sushi. I would be very happy with Sushi because I know I can get it in so many different varieties and combinations that I would never get bored and I ca get it pretty much anywhere in the world if I know where to ask or look. And it would be wonderfully delicious and fun to try out as many different flavor combinations that I could find. Not to mention, it would be fairly healthy. And well, I love sushi anyway. I know, I’m strange, but I’m happy with it.
Jonny: Ah, that’s my favorite too! Many places may have the same kinds of sushi rolls, but they add their unique spin to them that can make them extremely different. I love spicy tuna rolls or anything with nori. It’s kind of an obsession, so I try to limit my intake. Keep me away from those Nori chips! I’ll go through a huge pack of them in no time.
If you could choose to be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
J.R. : I would be a polymorph. I would be able to change my appearance at any point and on any whim. I could have any style or color of hair, skin tone, height, weight, age, etc. I could be anyone I wanted to be from moment to moment. It would make Cosplay a breeze to say the least and character design would be a blast. Not to mention the amount of people watching I would be able to do since I would be able to blend in with anyone anywhere. And my skills would make me an indispensable spy for hire. I think I could lead a very unique life and maybe even pass on my nifty genetics to my children. I think the only downside would be the sheer amount of caloric intake that I would need to constantly change forms.
Jonny: Oh, that’s a great one! Wow, you got me beat. Today I’d like to be a ghost. Not being morbid I swear! It would simply be fun to mess with people while they work from home. Just little things. Creaky footsteps, strange moaning noises, a cold chill down the spine. Oh the mischievousness! PS: I used to scare pretty much every single ex boyfriend of mine. I can’t help myself!
What are your favorite tv shows and movies?
J.R. : This would be such an outrageously long list I would bore you long before I was even a quarter of the way through. However, I can give you some of my top choices in no specific order.
I love Supernatural and most shows along those lines, Lucifer, Grey’s Anatomy, The Chilling Tales of Sabrina, Vampire Diaries/Originals/Legacies, Hannibal, Outlander, The Magicians, Charmed, Once Upon A Time, Hemlock Grove, Dexter, Reign, Sense 8, Blacklist, and Penny Dreadful.
As for movies… Almost anything MCU related, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Cutthroat Island, Interview with the Vampire, Underworld (and its sequels), Blade and Blade Trinity, Dracula Untold, Let The Right One In, The Conjuring (and all related movies), The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, The Craft, Hocus Pocus, Paint Your Wagon, The King and I, Mary Poppins, and most Disney Movies (I’d love to blame this on my kids, but the truth is I love a good Disney sing along. LOL).
Jonny: Wow, we’re basically the same person as far as TV shows go haha! I love your choices. Anything fantastical I can get behind. I am slowly warming up to documentaries but am very picky. Right now some of my faves are Skin Wars, Vampires Diaries, and Reality Z. Such good stuff out there!
If you could take a vacation anywhere, where would you go?
J.R. : If I could travel anywhere and not have to worry about the finances or actual physical stamina to enjoy the trip I would pack up my partner and our kids and travel the world for a couple years. I would climb the highest mountains on every continent, travel down every river through every country and land, swim in every ocean, and meet the local peoples of every nation. I want to see the entire world and I would want to share that experience with the people who mean the most to me in my life.
Jonny: Yes! If you ever get a chance to take a long journey like this please tell me all about it! I’m all about the travel.
If I could take a trip now I would go to New England to watch the trees turn. I hear the imagery is something you’ll never forget. I’m actually planning on doing this next year and saving up a big chunk of change, maybe enough for two weeks to just soak it in.
If you had the chance to live any life you want, what life would that be?
J.R. : I would want to live a comfortable life. I would want enough money to comfortably pay all my bills and expenses and have decent health coverage for myself and my family. Live in a large sprawling home on a couple hundred acres in the mountains somewhere. I would have horses, and chickens and ducks, a couple dozen cats and big shaggy dogs, and I would watch the stars every night without light pollution. I would open a writing retreat somewhere on my property where writers could come and get away from all the noise and distractions of the world and simply have the space and time to write. And I would spend my days drinking tea on my porch while I wrote my next book and enjoyed the natural world around me. Once a year we would pick a new destination to travel to and explore for a couple of months. I would be mentally and physically fit and healthy and so would my family. I would live my ultimate dream life.
Jonny: Oh, I love this vision you have for yourself. We can dream, right? I would also like a comfortable life. I do live a smidge comfortably now, but I am still technically paycheck to paycheck. I’d love to have a house near civilization but far enough from the city to enjoy wide open spaces. Can I steal your idea of having a writer’s retreat space for others?
What were you like in high school?
J.R. : I was the ultimate outcast. I didn’t fit in with anyone. I had very few friends and most of them were the opposite sex. I didn’t talk like most of the kids I went to school with and I was nowhere near perky, bouncy, outgoing, or athletic enough to want to be a part of the crowds. I wasn’t a stoner, a jock, or a rodeo kid. I was everything that a small community would love to hate on. My style was way too different, my language was nowhere near local, I didn’t blend in, I made a point of speaking my mind and doing my own thing as much as possible. Also, I was pretty much in hell for my requisite four years of teenage hell. Imagine a bleach blonde haired, blue-green eyed, five foot eight, California Surfer Girl with a dark summer tan showing up in the middle of the mountains of Colorado. I did not blend in. My hair eventually darkened back to its mostly brick red brunette, my tan faded out until I could put most vampires to shame, and my shorts and tanks became jeans, boots, and graphic T’s. But yeah. I was the ultimate outcast, to talk to me was to be shunned. The few friends I made were already on the shunned list so we got along fine. Those were some of the worst years of my life and that’s saying something.
Jonny: I’m sorry you didn’t have the best of high school experiences. I was kind of preppy since I was involved in show choir and had a ton of friends, but I tended to jump from group to group and just enjoyed talking to people and making new friends. I guess that kinda bled over into my blog. I just love learning more about others and chatting it up. 🙂
J.R. and Her Works
Tell us about your new book.
J.R. : Well… not quite new. It was supposed to be coming out this past March, then May, and now I have no idea when it’s being released because I have been fighting a lot of medical and personal battles this year and unfortunately it’s going to be another few months before I can finish up what needs to be done to this one.
Behind the Masque is the second book in The Krystianna Aramis Vampire Novels. In this book Krystianna is hosting the West Coast Grand Gala which is a arge gathering of some of the most important supernaturals on the entire West Coast Area. So of course, something has to go sideways and make things more difficult than they already are. A serial killer is killing off members of the Fae community and leaving the remains on display in gruesome ways. Krystianna must contend with hosting not only the Gala, but the representatives for Vampire High Council as well. And now with an entire faction of the Supernatural Accords being victimized people are beginning to look to the next largest faction, the vampires. This book is full of adventure, steam, the entire preternatural world, and dash of violence and snark. If you want a taste of Krystianna’s world please check out Cold Crypt Cellars, the first book in the series.
Jonny: Don’t feel bad at all about a delayed release. I am experiencing the same thing with my Reaper sequel. I got a little too comfortable last year, and this entire year has been all about making up for it. I bet the delay has made your next book even better, and I can’t wait to hear all about it if you’d like to stay in touch.
What inspired you to write this book in particular? Is it part of a series?
J.R. : Behind The Masque was inspired by my love of Masquerade Masks and dances. I wanted to have some major event for my characters to attend that would require some kind of costume. But I also wanted something violent and horrible for my characters to fight through as well. So I came up with the idea of people wearing masks for every occasion. We all have masks that we wear. We have the work mask, the home mask, the friend mask, the polite mask, the barely contained violence mask, we all wear masks. This book is a play on that idea. It is going to be the second book in the Krystianna Aramis Vampire Novels. I’m hoping to eventually wrap the series up with around twenty or so books, but I have a feeling Krystianna and the other characters may have more in store for me.
Jonny: Ooo, I love a masquerade. That was my favorite song in Phantom of the Opera, and I love dressing up for Halloween every year (why can’t it be every day?). And paired with some bloody violence? Sounds like heaven to me!
Wow, that’s awesome that you plan on that many books. Go for it!
Do you have a favorite character in your new book? Why are they your favorite?
J.R. : Hypothetically…. No. But I mean, of course I do. I love all my characters and I hate all my characters at times. But one in specific stands out in Behind the Masque. He is complex and twisted and dark and at the same time makes me laugh in ways that make my kid look at me sideways. The greatest aspect of this character is that in his darkest moments he enjoys Gregorian Chant of all things. I didn’t mean to design him this way, that’s just one of his personality quirks that came out in the writing. I really enjoy writing him. He is just so different than any other character I’ve ever written.
Jonny: Wow, that’s great! Dark and twisted characters go straight to the front of the line for me. I bet your audience will love him and his quirks.
Alright, it looks like we’re almost out of time. One last question! If your book would be made into a film, who would you like to play the leads?
J.R. : If I ever made my books into a film adaptation, it would have to be a T.V. Series. I would want complete control over casting as I have a specific image and persona in mind for each character. I wouldn’t want anyone big name or anyone with a solid career under them already. I would want new fresh faces that could be molded into the characters that I have created. I almost feel that an animated or CGI style film would be needed to really showcase the unique aspects of some of the characters and the way the see each other. I would want unknown actors/actresses because they would not already have an image built for themselves. I wonder if that makes sense outside of my head.
Jonny: Oh, that totally makes sense to me. I’m all about creative control, so I share your viewpoint, and also, lesser known actors really need that chance to get their name out there.
Thanks so much for joining us today, J.R.!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with J.R. O’Bryant. I had a great time chatting it up with her, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about J.R. and her work, she can be reached at the social media links provided below.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
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Great interview. I can totally relate to the judging and critiquing my own writing . . . while I’m trying to write. When my daughter was a baby, she enjoyed Gregorian Chants too. They’re so soothing.
Thanks! Yeah I can overly judge my own work especially when editing, but sometimes I do find little moments of brilliance and I try to remember that no one is perfect.
Oh interesting! I havent listened to Gregorian chants in a while, but now I have something to listen to later on haha!